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The show has undertones of the original 1950's TV production, "The Honeymooners" starring Jackie Gleason and Audrey Meadows. Doug (Kevin James) and Carrie Heffernan (Leah Remini) are a working class couple living at "3121 Aberdeen Street" in Rego Park, Queens, New York, along with Carrie's father, Arthur Spooner (Jerry Stiller). Doug works for the fictional International Parcel Service (IPS) as a delivery driver, while Carrie works as a secretary in Manhattan, first for a law firm and later for a real estate firm. Their lives are complicated by the demands of Arthur, so much so that they eventually hire Holly, a professional dog walker, to spend time with him as she walks dogs in the park. Doug Heffernan represents the "everyman" with his love of sports, TV, bad food and of course, his wife. His constant scheming and plotting through various hilarious situations leave him to constantly explain himself as his follies backfire.
Also featured on the show are Doug's friends Deacon Palmer, played by Victor Williams, Spence Olchin (Patton Oswalt), and Richie Iannucci (Larry Romano), as well as Doug's cousin, (and real-life brother) Danny Heffernan played by Gary Valentine. Deacon's wife Kelly (Merrin Dungey) is Carrie's best friend, having met through the relationship her husband has with Deacon Palmer.
Most scenes take place in the Heffernans' home, but other common locations include Doug and Carrie's workplaces, the restaurant "Cooper's" and the residences of friends and family. While locations seen during the theme-song were filmed in areas surrounding New York, the series was filmed in California.
The show begins after Doug and Carrie have already married, and how they met is slightly unclear due to continuity issues. In one flashback episode, "Meet By-Product", Doug meets Carrie when he is a bouncer at a nightclub that Carrie attends. However, in another episode, "Road Rayge", Carrie reflects on a song that she says Doug asked her to dance to when they were in junior high school.
Doug Heffernan (played by Kevin James) is an average parcel delivery man with a smart-aleck personality. Doug never hesitates to protest his grievances intensely. Doug's birth date is February 9, 1965. He was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada (unbeknownst to him until the season 5 episode "Dog Shelter"). Some of his misadventures are fueled by his love of food. These basic desires sometimes cause him to think of strange, intricate schemes in order to get what he wants, although they usually fall through in the end, causing constant arguments between Doug and Carrie. Doug's tendency to give in to his temptations, despite promising Carrie otherwise, is another common cause of disagreements. He generally enjoys the simple pleasures of watching sports and playing poker with his friends.
Carrie Heffernan (played by Leah Remini) is Doug's sardonic wife. She has a quick-temper and is occasionally physically abusive to Doug. She has been characterized as scary by Holly and Doug, particularly when she is angry. During a flashback, Carrie concludes that she is happier (she describes herself as never being truly happy) when others are miserable. She never finished college and is employed as a hard-working legal secretary. Her constant attempts to make her relationship with Doug more romantic and meaningful cause Doug frustration, as he prefers a simple life with as few restrictions as possible. The more quick-witted and adventurous of the couple, Carrie often pushes Doug to make more of himself and improve his morals, but she can be just as immoral as he is. Although Carrie scolds Doug for his selfish behavior, she has proven to be selfish as well at times, with little patience for others' problems or tolerance for their quirks. Carrie's best friend is Deacon's wife, Kelly Palmer.
Arthur Spooner (played by Jerry Stiller) is Carrie's widowed father, who has been married three times. His fourth marriage is to Spence's mother (played by Anne Meara, Stiller's real-life wife) during the final season. Arthur is the classic oddball of the family. He lives in the basement of the Heffernan house because he accidentally set fire to his own uninsured home, burning it to the ground in the pilot episode. Very volatile, Arthur is mostly known for his incoherent, irascible outbursts. He tells a lot of questionable stories of what he claims he has been through in his past. Arthur regularly causes chaos in the Heffernan household and gets on Doug's and Carrie's nerves. And, although he and Doug have a bitter rivalry in some episodes, he still approves of Doug, regardless. Doug and Carrie sometimes have trouble finding time alone because Arthur tends to get in the way. Arthur also tries to cause trouble with Doug's friends. He especially bullies Spence but also (unsuccessfully) tries it on Deacon, who often refers to him as "the old man".
Main cast of The King of Queens
Deacon John Palmer (played by Victor Williams) is Doug's best friend and co-worker. Towering in height and athletic, Deacon is a year and a few weeks younger than Doug, but the more mature of the two, in addition to being the classic "family man". Deacon and his wife Kelly have two sons, named Major and Kirby. He is often seen hanging out with Doug, whether it is on their lunch break, over the weekend, or for a family gathering. Although he often experiences relationship problems, Deacon always has time to relax and have fun. He will often help Doug plan elaborate schemes to fool Carrie, but he rarely likes to get involved in the scheme himself. Deacon attended St. John's University in Queens, where he received two bachelor's degrees, one in art history and one in music. In the first-season episode "Best Man", Deacon mentions having served in the National Guard. He also volunteers as a big brother.
Spencer "Spence" Olchin (played by Patton Oswalt) is another friend of Doug's and the nerd of the group. He tends to be paranoid with fragile health and takes an interest in science fiction, fantasy movies, and comic book conventions--interests that his friends do not share. Spence's birthday is February 14. He is of Albanian heritage, and works as a subway token booth clerk. He moved to the New York area from rural West Virginia. In one episode, he is a "house boy" for Deacon and Kelly. His character is based largely on the actor who plays him, Patton Oswalt. Spence demonstrates intelligence and competence in a variety of pursuits, but he is haunted by his family history, his intimidating and troubled mother, and his inability to protect himself. Numerous episodes mention that Spence is asthmatic (a burden he shares with Danny) and allergic to peanuts (however, in the episode "Richie's Song" he is seen eating Peanut M&M's out of Doug's vehicle). In the season eight episode "Hartford Wailer", Spence is said to be from Ottawa but it appears that he had only said that to Huey Lewis as a way to impress him. He has a Pug named Alan. In the series' penultimate episode, "Single Spaced", Spence shows romantic interest in Carrie when it appears she and Doug will divorce.
Richard "Richie" Iannucci (seasons 1-3; played by Larry Romano) is one of Doug's closest friends. He and Doug were roommates before Doug married Carrie (shown in the episode "Meet By-Product"). He was quietly written out of the show in season three so Romano could work on another sitcom (Kristin). During that season, he only appeared in one episode, called "Paint Misbehavin". He mostly addressed Doug as "Moose". Richie was known as the ladies' man among Doug's friends, even admitting to sleeping with Doug's sister. Richie is an FDNY firefighter. He is also somewhat of a con artist. His last appearance on the show was in the episode "Paint Misbehavin'", in which he has sex (off-screen) with Doug's sister Stephanie (Ricki Lake) and afterwards she promises to call him, although she has no intention to. He was also briefly seen in a few clips during the flashback montage at the end of the series finale.
Daniel "Danny" Heffernan (guest season 1, recurring seasons 2-3, main cast seasons 4-9; played by Gary Valentine) is Doug's cousin, and he is also seen hanging out with Doug, Deacon and Spence. In the show's early seasons Doug has a negative view of Danny bordering on hate due to the latter's over-eagerness to spend time with the former, but at the end of "S'no Job", they become friends and co-workers and regularly hang out along with Deacon and Spence. Danny even becomes Spence's roommate in a small apartment. The two fight like a married couple, and many of the jokes revolve around what looks to their friends like a romantic relationship. At one point, they legally marry in order to get a free TV from a sales pitch for which only married couples are eligible. Danny also used to own a pizza place, and he is divorced from a woman named Eva. He once had the nickname "Stumpy", which was given to him by Doug. Episodes "Silent Mite" and "Paint Misbehavin'" reveal that Danny has asthma and uses an inhaler. Gary Valentine and Kevin James are brothers in real life. They both created last names for acting. Valentine is their father's middle name.
Holly Shumpert (main cast seasons 4-7, guest seasons 3, 8 and 9; played by Nicole Sullivan) is a polite, yet timid dog-walker who along with the Heffernans lives in Queens, where she was hired by Doug and Carrie to walk Arthur. She is often seen arriving at the Heffernan house to pick up Arthur but is also a family friend of the Heffernans. She is often viewed as strange because of her habits, the men she dates and her habit of over-drinking, to which she openly confesses. Holly is a gentle soul, especially as she puts up with Arthur's antics, and is kind to Carrie despite the fact that Carrie often mistreats her. Holly was written out of the series at the beginning of season eight, but she later returned, pregnant, for one last appearance in the series finale ("China Syndrome"). Sullivan appeared as a different character in the season 3 episode "Pregnant Pause".
Sara Spooner (season 1; played by Lisa Rieffel) is Carrie's younger half-sister, an irresponsible aspiring actress. She appears in only five of the first six episodes. She was only mentioned one other time (although not by name) in episode 52 ("Roast Chicken") by Doug as an excuse to his boss to get out of performing a roast. After the show became more popular, Kevin James was asked during an interview to explain what happened to Sara. According to James, the producers could not think of any storylines to develop Rieffel's character, so she was discontinued. During the pilot she was on camera for roughly half the episode. However, in the other episodes in which she was included, her character did not have much to say or do. Subsequent dialogue suggests that Sara Spooner never existed, and that Carrie is an only child.
Kelly Palmer, Deacon's wife (played by Merrin Dungey) is Carrie's best friend. She has two children with Deacon. Kelly and Deacon experience some serious relationship problems, much more serious than the petty arguments between Doug and Carrie. On one occasion, Deacon mentions being hit in the head with a frying pan. She was absent from the show in 2002 because she needed to take a break from the series; during this period, her character was estranged from Deacon and engaged in a brief affair.
Lou Ferrigno (seasons 3-9; himself) is the actor known for his role as The Incredible Hulk. Ferrigno and his wife are neighbors of the Heffernans. A running gag on the series is that the neighbors (including the Heffernans) are fascinated by him and it gets on his nerves. Lou does not like people telling him Hulk jokes. Other characters often make reference to his previous role as the Hulk. For example, at one point Doug is angry and Lou tries to calm him down; Doug retorts with the famous line from the Hulk series "Don't make me angry; you wouldn't like me when I am angry". Also, in the episode "Gym Neighbors", it is revealed that he has a video game addiction.
Supervisor Patrick O'Boyle (seasons 3-9; played by Sam McMurray) is section supervisor for the fictional International Parcel Service. He is Doug's boss and friend throughout most of the show, whom he mostly refers to as "Heffernan". He is in most IPS scenes throughout the show. He is also a recovering alcoholic and gambling addict. A character named Supervisor Jack O'Boyle (played by John F. O'Donohue) appears in an episode from season one ("White Collar", 1999).
Doug Pruzan (season 2-6; played by Alex Skuby) is Carrie's boss and a lawyer at a Manhattan law firm.
Veronica Olchin (season 1; played by Grace Zabriskie, seasons 5-9 played by Anne Meara) Spence's mother. She is portrayed by Zabriske in her first appearance in "S'aint Valentines", but portrayed by Meara for the rest of the series. Veronica has an on-again/off-again relationship with Arthur, who is portrayed by Meara's real-life husband, Jerry Stiller. Meara had previously appeared in "S'aint Valentines" as a woman who flirts with Arthur. Arthur and Veronica marry in the series finale, but divorced a year later.
Based on the lives of blue-collar couple Doug and Carrie Heffernan, The King of Queens debuted on CBS on September 21, 1998. During its run, it brought in solid ratings (usually ranking in the Top 40) for the most part and was a Monday night staple, competing with shows such as the long-running drama 7th Heaven. In 2003, when moved to Wednesday and scheduled against The West Wing and Nanny 911, it began to drop in the ratings. The final episode aired on May 14, 2007. The series was shot at Sony Pictures Studios' Stage 28 in Culver City, California. The character of Arthur was conceived with Jerry Stiller in mind, but he initially turned down the role. Veteran comedian Jack Carter was then cast and a pilot was shot. Soon afterward, Stiller changed his mind and took the part, which required re-shooting of scenes featuring Carter.
The King of Queens was partly inspired by the classic television sitcom The Honeymooners, as the characters of Doug and Carrie are based on the Kramden couple, with similar mannerisms and deadpan expressions. In a 2001 episode of the show ("Inner Tube"), the show pays homage to The Honeymooners, as a distraught Doug dreams that he is Ralph Kramden, his wife Carrie is Alice Kramden, and his friend Deacon is Ed Norton. The sequence was filmed in black-and-white and the audio quality (including the audience) matches a 1950s style.
Theme song and opening sequences
The season one main opening was a simple eight-second sequence which showed the window of a subway train moving past and then quickly stopping at the original show logo, which then peeled off to reveal the names of the show's creators.
Starting with season two, the show added a new theme song called "Baby All My Life I Will Be Driving Home to You", which was written by series writers Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa, composed by Jonathan Wolff and Scott Clausen, and performed by Billy Vera and the Beaters. An instrumental version was used as the closing theme during season two, but was replaced in season three with a new closing theme composed by Kurt Farquhar.
The opening credits from seasons two through nine featured an opening shot of Doug getting into an IPS truck, which then cuts to a long shot of an elevated subway station, (Which is the 111 Street Station on the IRT Flushing Line which is on the 7 Line of the New York City Subway) where he drives under the subway station onto which the show's logo is digitally placed, as if it's a street sign. It then cuts to scenes of Doug, Carrie and Arthur spending time around Queens. In the season two sequence, Kevin James' starring credit was placed over a shot of the Brooklyn Bridge with the Manhattan skyline, but was re-edited after the September 11 attacks that felled the World Trade Center. Two short versions of the sequence exist: in original airings where the opening was shortened due to time constraints and in some syndicated airings, the opening featured the shot of the IPS truck going under the bridge, then to the final shot of the credits where Doug and Carrie get ices at the Lemon Ice King of Corona on 108th St in Queens. The second version used in U.S. syndicated airings since 2007 simply features the first eight seconds of the full sequence with the opening establishing shots of Queens placed before the truck scene. In syndicated airings of season one episodes that have aired in the U.S. since the fall of 2007, this version replaced the standard season one sequence in all episodes for unknown reasons.
During the first season, The King of Queens, on the review aggregatorRotten Tomatoes, the series was critiqued by two critics, with an approval rating of 50%, based on the 2 reviews, with an average rating of 7.4/10. Maryann Johnson of Flick Filospher critiqued, "Obvious and distasteful, King of Queens relies too heavily on class and gender stereotypes to elicit laughs in the same way that one pulls teeth." Clint Morris of FilmThreat lauded the series, praising star Kevin James as "one of the funniest guys to grace the TV tube since Bill Cosby." On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating, the series has a score 55 out of 100, based on 26 critics, indicating "generally mixed reviews".
Awards and nominations
In 2006, Kevin James received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for his portrayal of Doug Heffernan.
In addition, The King of Queens received several BMI Awards during its prime-time run. The series won BMI Awards in the "TV Music Award" category in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004. These awards were presented to Kurt Farquhar, Josh Goldsmith, Andrew Gross, and Cathy Yuspa.
The show is currently in syndication worldwide and airs on TV Land, Paramount Network and Lifetime in the United States. All channels air the show with a TV-PG rating. As of 2019, Lifetime and Paramount Network airs the program during the afternoon, while TV Land air the program primarily in late night (11 PM and 4:50 AM Eastern time for TV Land respectively). Previously, the show aired on TBS where it debuted in September 2006 and continued to air on the network until September 30, 2019. The series aired for reruns on Nick at Nite from January 1 to November 10, 2019.
Internationally, the series airs on 111 Greats and 10 Peach in Australia, and on TVTropolis and OMNI in Canada. In Sweden, Germany, Ireland, Romania, Denmark, the UK and Poland it runs on Comedy Central. In April 2014, the show began running weekdays on Channel 4 at 7:35am in the UK and Ireland. A lot of the jokes and humour has been cut. In 2017, it began running again in Austria on Puls4, weekdays from about 1 P.M.-2P.M. In Israel, the show airs on the satellite television provider yes, and it also aired on the cable television provider HOT.
Seasons two and three were released on Blu-ray Disc by Koch Media on November 21, 2008. They are presented with 1080i/25fps VC-1 video, 2.0 DTS audio tracks in both English and German with German subtitles optional. They include the same extras as the DVD releases from Koch Media. Even though they are only released in Germany and Austria, they are not region locked.
On March 26, 2015, Koch Media released the whole series on Blu-ray in HD. The complete box set is distributed for Region B/2.
Kevin Can Wait, a 2016 television sitcom starring Kevin James and Leah Remini